Overheard on Bedford St.


Having once written articles under tight deadlines in a wide-open newsroom, I am used to a noisy workplace.  Indeed, I prefer to work amidst hustle and bustle and can tune out most conversations around me.   I was correcting a proof of my book King’s Gambit: A Father, a Son, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game at a coffee shop called Verb while overhearing—and largely ignoring—a conversation at the next table.  (Verb is the place I go when I’m in Brooklyn in the afternoon and want only decaf, which my favorite Brooklyn morning spot, Gimme Coffee, which makes the best cup of coffee in the world, is too hip to serve.) 

“You could send you story to McSweeney’s,” one twenty-something dude told the other.  “You can find the address on-line.  Your story would appeal to the David Eggers crowd.   Then again, you might want to reach a larger audience.  The themes you write about are universal.  Don’t just send it out to random publishers.  It will be lost in their slush piles.  You need an agent.”

“I don’t know how to get an agent.”

“My girlfriend can help you.  She knows an agent.” 

The conversation went on in this general way for half an hour, and I only perked up when the unpublished author inquired why the themes he wrote about were universal.

“Well,” his coffee companion said, “You were born in Puerto Rico.  Your father died in 9/11.  You went to jail.  And now you’re a fine man who has made something of himself.” 

Now I listened closely, dying to know why he had been incarcerated.  But, to my dismay, the two men just quietly nursed their lattes and finally left, without revealing anything else personal.

3 Responses to “Overheard on Bedford St.”

  1. Mike White Says:

    au contraire! Decaf is indeed served, but made to order each time.

  2. paulhoffman Says:

    Rad! Now I have no reason ever to leave Lorimer St.

  3. Howard Goldowsky Says:

    You missed the opportunity to interrupt their conversation with something like this:
    Paul Hoffman [leaning over and tapping the unpublished writer on the shoulder] Excuse me, Sir. I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. I’ve actually written a bunch of books, and I could help you find an agent. In fact, this is my latest book, right here. I’ll make a deal with you: you tell me why you went to jail, and I’ll let you email me your work; I’ll take a look.
    Now, I don’t know if it’s in your personality to do such a thing (I assume it is not, or else you would have done it).
    Dave Eggers, by the way, is one of my favorite writers — his use of metaphor is first-class — one of the best in the world. If Dave Eggers was a chess player, his rating would be 2600+. I’ve learned a ton about writing by reading his work.
    Speaking of Eggers (not Dave) and chess, there is a writer from UC-Chico named Paul Eggers who has written a few quality short stories about chess for the Missouri Review and the Santa Monica Review, and a few other pieces that are older in a collection titled How the water Feels. Paul Eggers was a chess master in a former life, so he writes about chess with a technical proficiency.
    And speaking about contemporary chess fiction, Ed Falco (the brother of Eddie Falco from the Sopranos), a professor at VA Tech, is also an excellent writer with some chess-themed stories.
    If I’m lucky, and can find the time, I hope to publish a collection of contemporary chess fiction, with pieces by these writers. (It’s probably not going to happen.)

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